fMRI responses to Jung's Word Association Test: implications for theory, treatment and research

J Anal Psychol. 2013 Jun;58(3):409-431. doi: 10.1111/1468-5922.12021.

Abstract

Jung's Word Association Test was performed under fMRI conditions by 12 normal subjects. Pooled complexed responses were contrasted against pooled neutral ones. The fMRI activation pattern of this generic 'complexed response' was very strong (corrected Z scores ranging from 4.90 to 5.69). The activation pattern in each hemisphere includes mirror neurone areas that track 'otherness' (perspectival empathy), anterior insula (both self-awareness and emotional empathy), and cingulated gyrus (self-awareness and conflict-monitoring). These are the sites described by Siegel and colleagues as the 'resonance circuitry' in the brain which is central to mindfulness (awareness of self) and empathy (sense of the other), negotiations between self awareness and the 'internal other'. But there is also an interhemispheric dialogue. Within 3 seconds, the left hemisphere over-rides the right (at least in our normal subjects). Mindfulness and empathy are central to good psychotherapy, and complexes can be windows of opportunity if left-brain hegemony is resisted. This study sets foundations for further research: (i) QEEG studies (with their finer temporal resolution) of complexed responses in normal subjects (ii) QEEG and fMRI studies of complexed responses in other conditions, like schizophrenia, PTSD, disorders of self organization.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomedical Research / methods*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Jungian Theory*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurosciences / methods
  • Reference Values
  • Word Association Tests / statistics & numerical data*